In the kingdom of “tortelli” (ravioli-like pasta) plant poisoning is still a threat. A case report of near-fatal poisoning from Digitalis Purpurea accidentally confused with Borago Officinalis.

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Laura Bonfanti
Giuseppe Lippi
Irene Ciullo
Fiorenza Robuschi
Rosalia Aloe
Sara Tarasconi
Riccardo Vassallo
Gianfranco Cervellin

Keywords

poisoning, toxicity, digoxin, cardiac glycosides, Digitalis Purpurea, Borago Officinalis

Abstract

A 58 years healthy old woman was admitted to the Emergency Department (ED) with cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation (VF). Appropriate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), multiple DC shocks and oro-tracheal intubation (OTI) were effective to induce recovery of spontaneous circulation (ROSC). After ROSC was achieved, the electrocardiogram (ECG) showed an idio-ventricular rhythm with atrioventricular dissociation. A transcutaneous pacing was hence applied and the patient was administered with isoproterenol. Simultaneously, her husband was evaluated in the ED for gastrointestinal symptoms occurred after assumption of home-made “tortelli” (ravioli-like pasta) stuffed with cheese and leaves of a plant which they supposed to be borage two days before admission. Borage, during the non-flowering seasons, can be easily confused with foxglove (Digitalis spp.), and this was the main clue to suspect poisoning. Both patients were given DigiFab®, a sheep antibody fragment with high affinity for digoxin. The woman was then admitted in intensive care unit (ICU), where a rapid clinical  improvement occurred, thus allowing discharge in a few days. The husband was instead discharged from the ED after clinical observation and ECG monitoring. In both cases, a significant plasma concentration of digoxin could be measured.

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